Child abuse trial halted as judge 'falls asleep' listening to alleged victim's evidence


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The Independent Online

The trial of a suspected paedophile collapsed after a senior judge was accused of “falling asleep” as one of the alleged victims gave evidence.

Recorder Philip Cattan, who is described on the St Johns Buildings Barrister Chambers website as “one the most senior experienced and respected criminal practitioners on the Northern Circuit”,  was allegedly seen  “nodding off”  at Manchester Crown Court as the under-age victim answered questions about her alleged sexual abuse via video link.

Believing that the judge could have missed a vital piece of evidence while asleep, barristers from both sides raised a “point of law”, had the trial adjourned and confronted the judge about his behaviour.

As a result of the alleged misdemeanour, the jury was sent home and an investigation into the judge’s conduct was launched.

Kama Melly, a leading criminal barrister who specialises in child sex crime, told The Mirror: ““If these allegations prove to be correct then they are extremely serious.  It is devastating for a victim to have a trial delayed so long while an investigation takes place.”

It is also expected that the breakdown of the hearing could cost the British taxpayer upward of £10,000 in court fees.

The trial saw John Quigley, 49, facing charges of the rape of a child under 13, sexual assault of a child under 13, engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child, three counts of causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity and four counts of assault by penetration.

The girl giving evidence when the judge was accused of falling asleep was the first of two girls to testify that Quigley had sexually abused her in a series of assaults carried out between 2006 and 2013.

Following the allegations against the judge, a spokesman from the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office said that they were aware of the allegation that the judge had fallen asleep during the trial and the matter was being considered “in accordance with the Judicial Conduct Rules 2013.”

In a statement by the Crown Prosecution Service, they said: “The jury has been discharged in the trial of R v John Quigley at Manchester Crown Court following an issue that arose in court during the cross examination of the first complainant in the case.

“The trial will be re-listed as soon as possible. The complainants and other witnesses have been kept informed.”

The retrial is expected to restart at Manchester Crown Court next month.